What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Lameness, Recent Hind Limb


Lameness is an alteration in gait caused by pain or a restriction on movement (mechanical lameness).

Recently observed hind limb lameness may be caused by a simple problem that will resolve on its own or by a more severe condition that requires veterinary care. Since there are hundreds of potential causes, it is very difficult to discern the difference between a minor self-resolving problem or a major problem.

The most common locations for hind limb lameness are the foot and the hock. As with the front limb, hoof bruises and abscesses are always high on the list.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.
    • If severe and obvious lameness is visible at the walk.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
    • If the lameness is mild.
You also might be observing
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your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the presence and severity of lameness at the walk. Take their rectal temperature.

Look carefully for swelling in the limb and carefully assess for digital pulse and heat in the lower limb and foot. Compare the apparently lame limb to the other limbs. Check the sole carefully for packed debris, penetrating nail or other injury. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

What Not To Do

Do not treat your horse yourself with an NSAID (bute), without involving your vet. You risk encouraging your horse to use a damaged limb or allowing a disease process to worsen. Continuing to work a lame horse can lead to chronic lameness in the future.

your vet's role

Your vet will assess the horse's general health, and perform a lameness exam. At that point, further diagnostics can be considered.

Note, when it comes to lameness, (particularly in the hind limb) it is very difficult for a vet to determine whether the underlying problem is simple or complex without examining the horse. Hind limb lameness exams can range from quick and simple to grueling and expensive.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What exactly do you see?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Do you notice swelling or heat in the limb?
  • Do you notice a digital pulse or heat in the foot?
  • Does your horse have a history of lameness?
  • When did you first notice the lameness?
  • Does the horse have a history of accident or injury?
  • Have you given any medications to the horse, what and when?
  • Has there been a recent change in feeding, level of work or management?
  • When did the horse last perform to your expectations?
  • What level of work is the horse being asked to perform?
  • Are you confident that this is a new problem?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Diagnostics Your Vet May Perform

Figuring out the cause of the problem. These are tests or procedures used by your vet to determine what’s wrong.

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Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

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further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP